Bringing everyone on board: 3M Student Fellow Basmah Hendy pushes for more inclusive learning experiences

- May 17, 2024

3M Student Fellow Basmah Hendy, pictured on Dal's Studley Campus. (Ryan McNutt photo)
3M Student Fellow Basmah Hendy, pictured on Dal's Studley Campus. (Ryan McNutt photo)

For Neuroscience student Basmah Hendy, improving access to education and creating more inclusive spaces are more than just side-projects to her academic experience. They’re front-and-centre for a reason.

“If you look at the global spectrum, intelligence is distributed evenly around the world — but access to education is not,” explains Basmah, an Egyptian-Canadian student from Halifax currently in the third-year of her BSc program. “It doesn’t really make sense to have education only for a certain subset of the population because talent is everywhere.

“And with that comes the communication aspect: it’s not enough to have people able to be involved in science or in other fields if they’re not getting the full experience. Access and literacy have to go hand-in-hand.”

From creating a unique high-school mentorship program to diving into the challenge of creating a suite of visual-assistance tools for a fellow student, Basmah is someone who puts an incredible amount of time, energy, and passion into different ways of approaching teaching and learning. Now, her efforts have been recognized with one of the top student honours in the country.

Basmah is one of only 10 students across Canada selected this year as a 3M Student Fellow by the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (STLHE). The award honours full-time diploma and undergraduate students who demonstrate outstanding leadership in their lives and at their institution, embracing a vision of education that enhances their academic experience and beyond.

Making the most of opportunities

Basmah is a dean’s list student with a Chancellor’s Scholarship in hand. She works as a teaching assistant and a tutor, and volunteers for organizations and events like SuperNOVA, Parkinson’s Canada, and Halifax Brain Awareness Week.

“I come from a family that is very much, ‘You’re going to do something once, and you’re going to do it the right way,’” she explains when asked about her approach to getting involved. “You read the instructions before you build something. Any piece of knowledge that you’re learning, it’s going to benefit you in some way, so you give it all you can. I think that’s perspective is just built into me.”

So when she teams up with a long-time friend to develop a mentorship program for local high school students — called MAP Mentorship — she goes all in: collaborating with teachers to find what might be most helpful, creating their own study resources, even building a website to help parents and teachers alike understand what they can contribute.

And when she was offered the opportunity to assist Dr. Jennifer Stamp in developing strategies to help another student, Gabrielle, navigate studies with a visual impairment, it was the same sort of fully invested approach.

Read also: Dal student and team test solutions for visually impaired students and their instructors

“We talk about how important visuals are in education, the whole ‘a picture is worth 1,000 words’ thing, but we don’t often think about the counter to that — and whether visuals are the best way to do things for everyone,” says Basmah.

The student group, calling itself, “Team Visual Assist,” forged connections across the university and beyond to create tactile textbook with raised-line diagrams and braille text, 3D printing diagrams in collaboration with the Faculty of Engineering, and receiving a grant to purchase a Braille software and printer.

“What came out of that experience, more than anything, is a shift in perspective — and I really appreciated that Dr. Stamp let us have a lot of freedom with it. We really got to see what we could put together.”

“Basmah fills her time with meaningful activities that make a difference in her community,” says Dr. Stamp, senior instructor in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience and one of Basmah’s nominators for her 3M Student Fellowship. “If she is passionate about something, her dedication automatically follows. I rarely see her level of dedication, enthusiasm, competence, and compassion.”

A love of teaching

Basmah recently travelled to Vancouver to present Team Visual Assist’s work at the International Congress on Academic Medicine — an incredible opportunity for someone still in their undergraduate degree. It was there where she got the call about her successful 3M Student Fellowship, which is set to send her on the road again: the prize includes registration and travel to attend the SLTHE national conference next month.

As for the longer road ahead, Basmah isn’t entire certain what she plans to do after she finishes her degree, but her experiences have given her some clarity on general direction.

“It has to include teaching in some capacity. I’m not sure exactly what that’s going to look like, or what sort of specific program it might be, but I know the feeling of what I want.”


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